CLARENDON HILLS – She had never won anything, but an inexplicable, surreal feeling let her know it was her time to ride.
“I just bought my bike this summer, fell in love with biking and I just thought, ‘Ohmigosh, I’m going to win,’” said 48-year-old Kelly Barofsky of Clarendon Hills. “I just had a weird feeling.”
What the first-grade teacher at Prospect School won was a trip of a lifetime – an eight-day biking tour of Italy from Venice to Florence through the contest, “Send a Teacher Traveling,” hosted by ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours.
Barofsky found out about the trip after her friend showed her a newspaper article on Super Bowl Sunday. By the end of March, she had submitted all the requirements, including a personal letter, two letters of recommendation and stating the specific tour she wanted to attend to enhance her curriculum as a teacher.
Barofsky, who has shared stories of her biking adventures with her students, said the children were ecstatic when they found out she won the trip.
She also faced a barrage of questions from them on everything from how long the trip was to where she would be staying when she got there. But that excitement will only grow and help her students with their own writing and interests, she said.
“For the curriculum piece, I just wrote about how I use my experiences with my students to have this passion that they can write about,” Barofsky said. “They have to take their interests and write, so I model my writing and talk about how exciting my bike trips were.”
Her daughter, Chloe, wasn’t as impressed initially.
“As I was writing my essay to enter the contest, my daughter was like, ‘Let me get this straight. You’re doing work, to go take a vacation, that you have to do work,’” Barofsky said with a laugh. “But they’re excited for me. They know how much I like to bike.”
It’s also her former students who indirectly helped her win the trip. Barofsky has always been active, but last year’s class gave her a gift card and she wanted to use it on something tangible – so, she simply walked into a bike shop and out with a new form of transportation.
Since then, she has been an avid biker, including biking two 50-mile rides last summer. The Italy tour will be an eight-day ride, two to three hours a day and anywhere from 25 to 50 miles each day.
Now, Barofsky is looking forward to an adventure of just seeing Europe for the first time, experiencing a different culture and meeting new people. It also will be a step outside her comfort zone across the Atlantic, traveling city to city with a group of about 20 strangers.
Barofsky takes off on June 25 and will be gone for a total of 14 days.
“It’ll just be a nice personal goal to be able to ride and make it,” she said. “I’ve never traveled alone so even the traveling part is kind of scary, but exciting for me.”